11/28/07 – Don’s last hurrah

By Jesse on November 27, 2007

Yeah that’s right, no more putting the varietal in the subject line.  I’m on to you lazy bastards.  Read the e-mail.

Dear winos,

For those who haven’t yet heard the unfortunate news, we’re losing our longtime member and resident iconoclast Don Ferlazzo — as well as his lovely fiance Jamie — to a life of matrimonial bliss in rural upstate New York.  This will be the last wine club that Don and I host together.  Come out in droves to pay your respects to a legendary wino who far made up for in jocular spirit what he lacked in tasting acumen.  (Or just come see him the following week at his sister’s place.  Either way.)

I recently got pissed off after I missed a tasting at Vendome Studio City featuring “holiday” wines, because they sounded really good.  The tasting promised a flight of bottles “selected for great value and easy pairing with hearty meals of [the holiday season],” and featured Spanish and French Grenache and German Rieslings.  Sounds like an unusual and inspired pairing.  Lets do the same this week.

1) If you want to go the Riesling way:

Please buy yourself a German Riesling (or if you find one from Alsace that looks delicious, you can snag that too).  You’ll remember from previous meetings that the way to guarantee that a German Riesling is quality is by checking for one of six qualifier terms after the word “Riesling” on the bottle.  These six terms refer to the method of the harvest, and correspond roughly to the sweetness of the wine — the presence of any of them on the bottle means you’re getting a good one.  So look for these terms before buying:

Kabinett — picked at normal ripeness; wine will be off-dry or possibly sweet
Spatlese — late harvest; will be sweeter and more intense
Auslese — means “selected harvest,” will be lush and sweet, and more expensive
Note: the following three will likely be quite expensive indeed
Beerenauslese — individual “noble rot” grapes selected by hand; deep honeyed richness
Trockenbeerenauslese — the richest, sweetest, rarest, and most expensive of all German wines; you become “Honorary Obergruppenfuhrer” of the Young Winos if you bring one
Eiswein — made from grapes which have ripened into winter and then frozen; incredibly intense flavors

2) If Grenache is more your style:

Those who decide to go red should be advised that the best Grenache may not say “Grenache” on the label.  If it’s French, you should get a wine from the ancestral homeland of “Rhone-style blends,” of which Grenache is typically the leading grape.  The primary Grenache regions of the Rhone Valley include such notable locations as Chateauneuf-de-Pape, Gigondas , and Cotes du Rhone.

If you’re inclined to go Spanish, the grape will be called Garnacha and features prominently in the wines of Priorat (Priorato).  Also, Grenache is often blended with Tempranillo in Rioja, but make sure you ask your wine merchant to sell you a bottle in which the Garnacha is going to come across if you decide to go the Rioja way.

In the New World, Grenache mainly features in Rhone-style blends, so you can expect to see it blended with Syrah and Mourvedre (and possibly Cinsaut) in wines from California and Australia.  These wines can be as delicious and expressive as their European counterparts.  Be sure to ask your local wine dealer for a good one — preferably one in which the Grenache makes up the majority of the blend.

Please do not bring “farewell” gifts for Don, as he’s lately been selling all of his personal belongings on craigslist and will probably just sell whatever you bring him in the frenzy of the moment.  The one exception is alcoholic gifts, which he will gladly consume for your amusement during the frenzy of wine club.  Suffice to say we’ll be meeting at our house in Sherman Oaks.

If you’re bringing Riesling, chill it.  If you’re bringing Grenache, don’t spill it.  We’ll see you crazy drunks at 9pm sharp on Wednesday night.